The first time you get a flat tire on a bicycle you may think you need to go and buy a new tire. However, bike tires are not like car tires and most of the time the only thing that needs to be repaired is the inner tube inside the rubber tire. The parts of a bicycle front tire are the wheel, the rubber tire and the inner tube. These instructions will tell you how to remove the wheel, remove the inner tube, patch it and re-place it back into the rubber tire and on the wheel correctly so you can ride your bike again.
Bike, Adjustable wrench, Tire patch kit, Bucket, Water, Air pump, marker, New tire tube
Flip the bike over and rest the bike on the seat and the handlebars, with the wheels up in the air. It is definitely easier to work on the tires when the bike is upside down.
Using the adjustable wrench, loosen the nuts on either side of the front tire forks. Do not remove the nuts, but loosen them enough that you can lift the tire out of the forks. If the bike has front brakes pads, gently pull the tire up and out from between the brake pads while trying not to mess up the brake alignment. You may need to let more air out of the tire in order to fit the rim and the tire between the brake pads.
Once you have the tire removed from the forks, check the rubber tire for sharp edges, glass shards, nails, stickers, anything that may have caused the flat. Remove any debris you find on the rubber tire.
Carefully, push the inner tube air valve into the rubber tire by pressing the valve from the spoke side of the wheel toward the rubber tire.
With the inner tube air valve pushed inside the rubber tire, carefully slide your fingers between the rubber tire and the wheel rim and pull out the inner tube. Some people like to remove the whole rubber tire to remove the inner tube but it can be very difficult to get the rubber tire back on the rim once you remove it. For this reason, it is suggested you slide your fingers under the rubber tire, pull out the tire tube and continue moving the wheel in a circle, carefully remove the whole tube while taking care not to cut the inner tube on the wheel or spokes.
Once the inner tube is removed, use the air pump to fill the inner tube up with air. If you can not immediately find the air leak, place the inflated inner tube in the bucket and fill it with water. When you see bubbles, you have found your leak. Dry the tube and use the marker to draw a circle around the air hole. Continue checking the rest of the inner tube in the water to find any other leaks. If you still cannot find the air leak, you may want to just insert a new inner tube. A new inner tube can be purchased at Target for Walmart for $5-$10. If you are replacing the whole inner tube, skip Steps 7 and 8 of these instructions.
Now that you have found all the air leaks, dry the tire, let out most of the air (by pressing on the air valve) and open your patch kit. Following the directions on your patch kit, seal the hole with one of the patches. Some patches are self adhesive, some need rubber cement to make the patch stick to the inner tube. No matter what type of patch kit you buy, read the directions first before sticking on the patch. Most kits include a small metal disk you use to rough up the tube a bit before sticking on the patch. Use the “scruffer” to roughen the surface of the tube and then stick on the patch.
Once the inner tube is patched and the glue has dried, check the leak again by dipping the inner tube back into the bucket of water. If you see no more bubbles, your leak is fixed and now you can put the inner tube back inside the tire. Deflate the inner tube before putting it back in the rubber tire and on to the wheel.
Carefully put the inner tube air valve into the hole on the wheel, making sure not to scrap or cut the stem on the metal around the hole. Once you have the valve seated in the nozzle hole, position the tire so and the deflated inner tube itself is completely inside the tire. Add a bit of air to the inner tube to round it out and then seat the rubber tire on the wheel, making sure the whole tire is inside the rim (on both sides) and the inner tube is not pinched between the rim and the rubber tire. This may take an extra pair of hands as you need to make sure the rubber tire is on the wheel completely and the inner tube is inside the tire completely.
Add a bit of air to the inner tube to keep the rubber tire on the rim but do not inflate all the way until you have placed the wheel back onto the bike frame. If the bike has front brakes pads, gently push the tire down and in between the brake pads while trying not to mess up the brake alignment. You may need to let some air out of the tire in order to fit the rim and the tire between the brake pads. A fully inflated wheel may not fit between the brake pads; you only need enough air to keep the tube inside the tire and the tire on the wheel.
With the wheel placed on the front spokes, tighten the nuts to finger tight. Make sure the wheel spins evenly and then inflate the tire to the desired fullness. Use the adjustable wrench to tighten the nuts completely and if necessary, re-position the front brakes.
Turn the bike the right side up and take it for a ride. Make sure the brakes are working and the tire does not wobble.